A new report into the effects of climate change on Australia’s vast coastline is forcing Aussies to consider the unthinkable: life away from the surf.
Beach culture is key to the nation’s identity. Some 80 percent of people live along the coast, so oceanside living is often seen as a virtual birthright. But a government environmental committee warns that thousands of miles (kilometers) of Australia’s coastline are under threat from rising sea levels.
The report, issued to parliament late Monday after an 18-month study, suggests officials consider the possibility of banning people from living in vulnerable areas.
“The Committee agrees that this is an issue of national importance and that the time to act is now,” the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts wrote.
The report makes 47 recommendations on how Australia can better prepare for the effects of climate change. It does not say the government should force people to move inland but proposes an independent group look into whether the government could — and should — do just that.
Alan Stokes, executive director of the Sydney-based National Seachange Taskforce, which represents coastal community councils across Australia, says banning development in certain areas is necessary if the government wants to prevent a major loss of life in the event of natural disasters such as tsunamis.
Aside from obvious safety issues, many coastal residents are finding it increasingly difficult to insure homes that are in high-risk areas, and the situation will only worsen as beach erosion escalates, he said.
“There’s no doubt Australia will remain and continue to be a coastal community,” he said. “But we may have to be a bit more considerate about which parts of the coast we develop further and which ones we don’t.”